If you had asked me back in early 2019 what my summer plans were, I would never have imagined taking on an internship so heavily political and advocacy-related like the ANCA Leo Sarkisian program. I started out my freshman year of college as an accounting major, but I was simply not interested. So I knew I wasn’t going to pursue an accounting internship. But what exactly did I want to do?
In March 2019, I attended the ANCA Rising Leaders Program and had the chance to explore my own role as an Armenian in advancing the important issues that we are facing today. I learned about Rising Leaders through my involvement in the ANC of New Jersey and Hamazkayin of New Jersey. Little did I know that the three-day program would open up a new future for me in a field I never thought I would be remotely interested in: politics.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Hai Tahd (the Armenian Cause) has been a part of my entire life. From a young age, I have been listening to the patriotic songs my dad would write and the well-known patriotic songs many have grown up with; the lyrics truly inspired me. I’ve grown up being a part of Armenian dance, choir, scouts, theater and more.
Before last March, however, anytime I heard the word politics, I turned my head in the opposite direction. Where did I fit in that world? But, when I experienced the power of grassroots advocacy affecting issues so dear to my heart, I became instantly hooked.
After ANCA Rising Leaders, my heritage became a more important part of my identity and everyday reality. A feeling was planted in me that pushed me to want to take responsibility and play a greater part in our political mission – in Hai Tahd. I had a new desire to be helpful to my culture and people, in demanding and earning our sacred rights. This is where my love of our culture and my newfound passion for politics began to intersect. This is when I decided to apply to the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program.
I sincerely believe that every Armenian should take the opportunity to dedicate a portion of their time to advancing Armenian American priorities. Personally, I believe we, as a people, should feel this sense of responsibility and bring our work and participation to furthering our cause in any way we can. Success is not going to be gifted to us on a silver platter, which is why we should never lose hope and should never stop working towards the big picture: a politically and economically viable Armenia, an independent Artsakh and justice for the Armenian Genocide. The issues and mission do not belong to any one group, but to the entire Armenian nation, both in the homeland and the diaspora. Working under the ANCA umbrella and through the Leo Sarkisian internship, I was able to gain a greater understanding of my personal role in the larger picture of advancing our cause.
So a word of advice to my fellow Armenians beginning your university careers. If you’re ever debating whether or not to try something new, take the chance. I wasn’t happy with my accounting major, so I explored new options and changed to finance.
I never thought I would be interested in politics, but the ANCA’s three-day Rising Leaders program in D.C. inspired me to look into and soon pick up a second major—political science. In my case, I decided to pick up a second major in order to advance my education in American government and policy and to become a better advocate for the Armenian Cause. My goal and hope during the eight week Leo Sarkisian Internship was to begin the process of strengthening everything I have been working towards my whole life and learn how to translate that into tangible local action in support of the Hai Tahd mission. I am happy to say the internship did exactly that. As a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, no matter what path I choose to take in my life, I plan to always prioritize my nation and homeland. The Leo Sarkisian Internship was an important step in doing that.